Senate Bill 1238
Utilities win and consumers lose
The Republican effort to aid in the further economic imprisonment of Florida citizens by way of SB 1238, at the behest of the party's masters including Florida Power & Light Co., is their most recent and most egregious act.
Paint me a cynic from the 3 ½ years I spent as a commissioner on the Florida Public Service Commission, where I watched all manner of deceitful conniving by both legislators and commissioners in their pursuit of serving FPL.
Consider the essential proposal contained in SB 1238: that the ratepayers — the citizens — be charged the entirety of an investment inuring solely to the benefit of FPL, which will profit 11 percent annually of the amount of the investment, and — shades of the sweetheart nuclear preconstruction deal — that the ratepayers will absorb the entire cost should the fracking adventure fail. And apparently FPL already has poured nearly $200 million down the exploration hole. Bank on that being insidiously recovered from the ratepayers. But what else could possibly go wrong? The officers, directors and shareholders of FPL are not only never on the hook for any subsequent failings of the investment, but should they exercise prudent fiscal responsibility, it makes them less money. And, not to get into the weeds, but who or what gets the benefits of depreciation, federal tax credits and profiteering FPL subsidiaries?
If the Republican lawmakers are capable of selling this pile of ordure to the citizens of Florida, then there is little to restrain them from any other economically or socially corrupt disaster.
Nancy Argenziano, Tallahassee
The writer is a former state legislator and former chair of the Florida Public Service Commission.
Power play again casts customers as chumps March 9, John Romano column
Cutting out the middleman
I feel compelled to address this recent Times column on proposed legislation regarding natural gas reserve investments.
First, Florida uses more natural gas than almost any other state, and Floridians pay billions to out-of-state corporations for it. Our customers are subject to market fluctuations, and we at Florida Power & Light Co. want to minimize this.
FPL's original natural gas reserves investment was successful and is currently producing natural gas at prices cheaper than market. Through these projects, we're just removing the "middleman" from natural gas purchases and helping protect against higher prices.
Opponents have attempted to draw similarities between the legislation and nuclear cost recovery. What is true about that comparison is that both are designed to save money for customers. In fact, FPL has already saved customers more than $300 million on financing costs for completed nuclear upgrades, with another $3.2 billion in savings on fossil fuel costs expected over the next two decades.
Now a columnist, professional politician/tax collector, paid activists and Tallahassee lobbyists are again speaking out against FPL's innovative thinking. Fortunately for FPL customers, we strongly disagree. Over the past 15 years we've invested billions in technology that shortsighted naysayers have strongly opposed. We embraced change, and the results speak for themselves. Today, FPL produces power that is more reliable, cleaner and cheaper than anyone in Florida. Last year we were ranked No. 1 in reliability in America, with bills that are 25 percent below the national average and the highest residential customer satisfaction among large energy providers in the South, according to J.D. Power. As a corporation we produce more power from the wind and sun than anyone in the world, and today FPL's emissions meet federal EPA requirements in 2030. I, for one, am proud of our record of success.
Eric Silagy, president and CEO, Florida Power & Light Co., Juno Beach
The simplest (and best?) solution to town hall ire | Feb. 24
Special deal for Congress
This column was right on the money. The best health care plan for the country would be the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. Because so many are on the plan, its rates can be favorably negotiated. However, the special treatment of members of Congress concerning health care has been largely ignored.
In the article, Martin Schram says that when the Affordable Care Act was enacted, it required all legislative branch employees to purchase coverage through the ACA networks. The fact is that the rules were "quietly" changed back, with FEHB as an option for Congress, in order to quell the dissatisfaction of its members, as reported in the Hill some time ago.
Recently, I attended Rep. Gus Bilirakis' town hall meeting in Palm Harbor and presented him with a copy of the Hill article. I received a prompt response from his office, which states that the article is correct but that he and his staff use the ACA for medical coverage. To me, this is a surprising but refreshing answer.
It would be a public service if the Times would publish a list of our legislators who opted to go back to the FEHB and those who continued their medical coverage through the ACA.
John Medeiros, Dunedin
Budget boosts defense | March 17
Millions of futures at risk
The recent snowstorm in the Northeast is not the only chill to trouble citizens. The White House's proposal for next year's federal budget will leave many out in the cold. It especially spells bad news for the fight against global poverty. The blueprint calls for cutting global antipoverty programs by about 30 percent. This funding for the State Department and our country's main development agency, USAID, helps make sure more girls go to school, more kids start life with the nutrition they need, more people access lifesaving treatment for diseases like tuberculosis, and so much more. All of this is accomplished on less than 1 percent of the federal budget. With these kinds of programs on the chopping block, it's not an exaggeration to say millions of futures are at risk.
Barbara Drake, Tampa